ReThinking Seminary?

Below is the recently adopted “Statement Of Mission, Vision, and Values” for The School Of Theology At Claremont, one of the 13 official United Methodist-related seminaries in the U.S.:


At its March 2008 meeting, the Board of Trustees set in motion the Claremont University Project. This statement of Mission, Vision, and Values were adopted to shape the character of the multi-year project.

As an ecumenical and inter-religious institution, Claremont School of Theology seeks to instill students with the ethical integrity, religious intelligence, and intercultural understanding necessary to become effective in thought and action as leaders in the increasingly diverse, multireligious world of the 21st century.

In addition to being a leading school of theology training exemplary ministers for service to their specific religious organizations, Claremont has a vision of being a leading theological university where scholars and practitioners of the world’s religions can come together, learning and practicing how to treat others as they would like to be treated. This will enable religious organizations, leaders, and individuals, regardless of their matters of perspective on faith, to work collectively to bring about harmony and understanding at all levels – individual, organizational, and governmental.

With a free and liberating spirit, Claremont nurtures a diverse international community that passionately pursues intellectual rigor, vocational formation, and responsible social engagement. We commit ourselves to think deeply, act ethically, embrace diversity, work for justice and peace, and care for the earth, its people, and its resources so that all life may flourish.

Notably absent from this statement are words such as Jesus, Christ, or Christianity.

At an institution supported by dollars from local United Methodist congregations. And United Methodism is, after all, a self-avowed Christian denomination.

I am no fundamentalist. But Jesus is decisive, and our churches long for pastors who believe as much. Syncretism is a grave danger, not a friend.

If one of our denomination-related schools of theology cannot claim in its Mission, Vision, and Values that is in any way Christian, then perhaps we should “re-think” what it means to be a United Methodist seminary.